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Alien salvation video

Alien Salvation was the result of a recent three week residency at San Fransisco’s Exploratorium Tinkering Studio. They devise workshops for people to make things and I help them devise new ones. As a kid I made things out of sticky tape and cardboard, usually shoe boxes, and I had been trying to work out some kits for Novelty Automation based on shoe boxes. One of these kits was a little scene inside the box lit by LEDs (with a hole cut in one end to view it). I thought this had potential and the Tinkering studio uses a lot of LEDs so this was my starting point. I call these boxes peep shows but found that in the US the term means a sex show, so the Tinkering Studio calls them ‘Dioramas’.  

Interior, 6 shoeboxes with LEDs inside

I made a few before I had the idea of combining them to tell a story. This was partly because I’d also made them a cam timer (they wanted a more tangible form of control than an Arduino for one of their projects). 

So I bought a two minute greeting card voice recorder as the final ingredient. The story was influenced by a great book about the cold war I was reading at the time called ‘Command and Control’. 

In my peep show/dioramas I found that small-scale figures for model railways gave a scale to the scene. Printed images, like the map in the generals’ control room, were another good ingredient. Also part of the fun is finding things that look right on a different scale – so the satellite at the beginning is actually an adjustable potentiometer (an electronic component). 

I was pleased with the final contraption, both because it has potential for an arcade machine, but also because it could make a good collaborative workshop activity, with everyone first making their own scenes and then working out a story to combine them all. 

I tried the shoebox scenes as a 1 hour workshop. It wasn't long enough but people made some really nice scenes, particularly discos! 





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